local government

Stateside
5:09 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

What do local leaders think about right to work?

Right-to-work protestors outside the State Capitol last December.
david_shane Flickr

It was certainly a fiery, emotional scene at the State Capitol a year ago this month.

That's when the lame-duck Legislature and Governor Snyder rammed through the right-to-work law, and Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state.

The laws took effect in March, making it illegal to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

So what do our local government leaders think about right to work?

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Politics & Government
3:54 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Fiscal health of local goverments gradually improving, but many still in bad straits

Percentage of jurisdictions overall reporting they are better or less able to meet their fiscal needs in current year compared to previous year, 2009-2013.
Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy UM's Ford School of Public Policy

Michigan's cities, towns, and villages are seeing an overall improvement in their ability to meet their financial needs, but hundreds continue to struggle. That's according to an annual report by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy.

The report finds that smaller municipalities are having a tougher time than those with populations of more than 30,000. And municipalities in central Michigan and the southern lower Peninsula have been particularly hard hit.

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Politics & Government
7:24 am
Mon August 5, 2013

In this morning's news: Animal abuse prevention, Michigan left turn, local primary elections

Morning News Roundup for Monday, August 5, 2013
User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Legislators working to prevent animal abuse in Michigan

A bid to make Michigan the first state with an animal abuser registry has been dropped by lawmakers over concerns about cost and other issues. Instead, the state could soon require that criminal background checks be done on every would-be pet adopter at Michigan animal shelters. The $10 fee for each check could be waived for shelters. Cracking down on animal abuse has broad support, though some dog breeders question doing tens of thousands of background checks to flag a small number of abusers.

Michigan left turn could enter other states

The median U-turn is common on Michigan roadways; they allow drivers to avoid accident-generating left turns at intersections. But Wayne State University engineers say they aren't common in other states yet, in part because the design isn't included in standard manuals and software used by highway designers. The university received a $78,000 grant from Scientific Applications with which they plan to develop equations, text and software to include the Michigan left turn in the Highway Capacity Manual.

Looking forward to local primaries tomorrow

Local primaries will be taking place across Michigan tomorrow. The most interesting might be the Detroit mayoral primary. There are 14 names on the ballot, but the race is widely seen as a duel between former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. But Duggan isn't even on the ballot, he's running a write-in campaign. Only the top two candidates will advance to the November general election.

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Politics & Government
9:54 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Will Detroit’s bankruptcy affect your hometown?

Will Detroit's bankruptcy affect cities like Grand Rapids?
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Listen to the on-air version of this story. An extended version is below.

It’s a question many in local governments across the state have been asking themselves lately.

There are a couple ways Detroit’s bankruptcy could have a bad influence on other local governments.

The simple way: not so good national media attention

The simplest way is all that bad press the nation’s biggest municipal bankruptcy will bring. But Detroit’s finances have been screwed up for decades. That’s not news. Economists that track indicators in West Michigan say it won’t help, but they do not expect this to be a big factor.

The more important way Detroit’s bankruptcy could affect small governments is much more complicated.

The complicated way: “unprecedented” threats to municipal bonds

First, you’ve got to understand these bonds are really important to local governments.

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Politics & Government
7:51 am
Mon July 8, 2013

In this morning's news: Medical marijuana dispensaries, free trade with E.U., voter registration

Morning News Roundup for Monday, July 8, 2013
User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Medical marijuana dispensaries could be revived in Michigan

A state House panel is soon likely to take up a bill that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled to stop most marijuana dispensaries; but now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

Republican representative Mike Callton told Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher, “without the dispensaries, patients will have very limited access to medical marijuana.”

Free trade with E.U. could benefit Michigan manufacturing

Michigan businesses will be closely watching free trade talks starting today between the United States and the European Union. The proposed trade deal would open markets between the U.S. and the 28 E.U. countries. Rich Studley is the president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Studley told Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody, "an E.U. free trade deal would primarily benefit Michigan’s manufacturing industry."

Last chance to register for 2013 local elections

Today is the deadline to register to vote for the 56 local elections in Michigan this summer. Elections range from local primaries to school boards to city council votes. The Michigan Secretary of State is urging Michiganders to get out to vote in their local elections. Residents can go to their county or local clerk's office or a Secretary of State office to register.

Politics & Culture
4:51 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Stateside for Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A state-appointed review team found the small city of Hamtramck is once again in a state of financial emergency. Will the city succumb to state control again?

And nearby in Detroit, one prominent observer has growing doubts about the effectiveness of the city's emergency manager.

And, a new film documentary explores the different ways Michigan families have transformed deep loss into opportunities to grow.

Also, Tom Ivacko joined us to discuss how local leaders would like citizen to get involved with government.

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Stateside
3:16 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Citizen involvement in local government is good, but not too much

Tom Ivacko
Twitter

An interview with Tom Ivacko from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan.

How deeply should citizens be involved in governing our counties, cities, townships or villages?

Put another way, how deeply do our local leaders want us to be involved?

That's the question the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan put to more than 1,300 local government officials from all over Michigan.

You can read more about this survey here.

Tom Ivacko from the Center joined us today with the verdict.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
11:11 am
Thu March 14, 2013

'It's not just Detroit,' hundreds of Michigan cities face huge unfunded liabilities

State capitol building, Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of Michigan cities are not saving enough to cover their future retiree health care costs.

A new report says more than 300 Michigan municipalities have in excess of $13 billion in unfunded liabilities for health care costs of retired public employees.

Michigan State University researchers found only half of the municipalities are prefunding retiree health care. The rest are setting aside no money despite longer lifespans and rapidly rising health costs.

While the collective bill of funding those benefits is $12.7 billion, the bulk of it, almost $11 billion, is attributable to local governments in a 10-county region of Southeast Michigan including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. The city of Detroit alone will owe $5 billion in retiree health care costs.

But MSU professor Eric Scorsone says cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Saginaw also face difficult choices.

“That’s already happening today….these cities…are paying millions of dollars in retiree premiums so it’s already having an effect and it will have an even bigger effect in the future,” says Scorsone.

Scorsone says the new national health care law may help some.   But tax increases, budget cuts or broken promises to retirees are inevitable, unless the state takes action.

Politics & Government
1:58 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Michigan's local government leaders want the state's personal property tax changed*

file photo
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new poll shows local government leaders are concerned about proposals to repeal or greatly change Michigan’s personal property tax.

Michigan’s personal property tax focuses on assets like furniture, equipment, computers and other temporary investments.

Businesses have complained for years about the personal property tax.  Critics complain the tax is an obstacle to reinvestment and attracting new investment to Michigan

But the tax generates hundreds of millions of dollars for local governments.

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Politics & Government
5:27 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Stateside: Government and unions learn how to better communicate

Relationships between unions and cities are improving.
UAW

Believe it or not, many of Michigan’s local leaders are satisfied with union negotiations.

According to Tom Ivacko, administrator and program manager of Ford School’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, the relationship between jurisdiction and its employees is quite positive.

Ivacko oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey program. He spoke today with Cyndy about these relationships.

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Politics & Government
5:07 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Michigan awards grants to 32 communities to find new ways to get along

Getting along with your neighbors isn’t always easy. So Governor Rick Snyder came up with a pretty simple plan to get townships, counties and cities to find new ways to work together; give them some kind of incentive, specifically, money.

Michigan Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says these Competitive Grant Assistance Grants are incentives to get neighboring cities, townships and counties to work together in new ways.

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Politics & Government
5:25 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

New House bill would limit cost of FOIA requests

Some of Michigan’s city and township officials are worried about a bill that would limit how much they could charge for public information requests. The state House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee opened hearings Tuesday on measures to make it easier and cheaper to file Freedom of Information Act requests.

Bill Anderson of the Michigan Townships Association said local governments are already losing money processing requests.

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Politics & Government
2:40 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Grand Rapids and Livonia team up to find best solutions for managing cities

Grand Rapids City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Two cities from opposite sides of the state are working together to come up with better ways to manage local governments.

Livonia and Grand Rapids are teaming up to find solutions to all kinds of common city management problems; like, what's the best practice for hiring city workers? What about for borrowing money? What’s the best accounting software for the price?

“In essence it could be anything necessary to run local government and best practices that we could easily share,” said Greg Sundstrom, Grand Rapids’ city manager.

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government
4:00 pm
Sun April 8, 2012

Three West Michigan communities consider merging into one

Travis Randolph is part of the group petitioning the state to allow a vote to merge three West Michigan communities.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This week there will be an important hearing for those hoping to merge three West Michigan communities. A group of citizens is asking the state to allow the cities of Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Township to merge into one city. 

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government
5:00 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Kent County’s ‘reverse eBay’ saves thousands on supplies

Kent County's Adminstration building in downtown Grand Rapids.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Kent County is saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on supplies thanks to a customized online auction. The program is like the online auction site eBay in reverse.

When Kent County needs office supplies, like printer paper, it opens an auction online. It lists a maximum price it’s willing to pay based on previous bills. Vendors offer to sell the county printer paper at that price or lower.

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government
11:17 am
Thu December 29, 2011

More than 70% of eligible Kalamazoo City workers already signed up for early retirement

Kalamazoo City Hall
Sean Marshall Creative Commons

265 Kalamazoo City employees are eligible for the early retirement incentive. According to the city’s Human Resources Director Jerome Post, 191 of them have already signed up. “I have to admit I’m a little surprised at the number of people,” Post said the number is higher than he expected.

 “It’s been a little bit anxiety ridden for us but at the same time we’ve been very excited about the opportunity this presents for us to restructure virtually every department in the city,” Post said.

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government
7:45 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Talks about Grand Rapids, Kent County merger will go on

Grand Rapids City Hall and the Kent County building sit next to each other next to Calder Plaza downtown.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Discussions about a proposal to merge the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County into a single unit of government will move forward despite numerous concerns about the final outcome.

Earlier this year a group of business leaders launched the “One Kent Coalition”. They didn’t really inform the city or the county of their plan ahead of time so initially there was a backlash against it. Many government leaders, like Grand Rapids City Commissioner Dave Shaffer, remain cautious.

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Economy
12:16 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

56 percent of local officials say unions are a liability to fiscal health

How do local leaders view unions? A University of Michigan survey says 56 percent of the local leaders they polled say unions are a liability to fiscal health.
UM Center for Local, State and Urban Policy

56 percent of local officials in jurisdictions that have unions believe the unions have been a liability to their jurisdictions' fiscal health, according to a survey released by the University of Michigan (43% reported "somewhat of a liability," and 13% reported "a significant liability").

The survey was conducted the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy from April 18 to June 10, 2011.

The Center says only 27 percent of Michigan's local governments have unions, but the vast majority of the state's population (98 percent) live in areas where their local governments have unionized employees.

The perception that these unions hurt a government's bottom line doesn't necessarily fall along party lines, according to the report:

Compared to Republican and Independent local leaders, Democratic officials are somewhat more positive about the fiscal impact of employee unions. But a surprisingly high 48 percent of the Democrats say unions have been a liability to their jurisdictions' fiscal health.

Thomas Ivacko told the Associated Press:

"It's a complex picture coming out from the local level," center administrator Thomas Ivacko told the AP. "Local leaders tend to say that having a union is hurting their fiscal health. . . . (But) the picture isn't all negative."

Despite the bad perception on overall fiscal health, the report says the respondents rated their relationship with the unions as generally positive:

60 percent of the local officials say the relationship between their localities and employee unions has been either good or excellent over the past 12 months, according to the statewide poll. Only 5 percent say the relationship was poor.

Politics
11:04 am
Thu August 25, 2011

Local Control and Health Care

As you may know by now, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill  yesterday limiting how much local governments and schools can spend to provide health care for their employees.

The new law, which Governor Snyder is expected to sign, says local governments can contribute a maximum of fifty-five hundred dollars an employee, or fifteen thousand dollars a family.

Their only other option is to split health coverage cost with the employees, as long as the workers pay at least twenty percent.

Local governments can opt out of these requirements, but it won’t be easy. They’d have to do so by a two-thirds vote of their council or school board, and take a new vote every year.

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Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Cities, townships, counties brace for rough couple years

Members of the Michigan Municipal League gather for a Q & A session with Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The next two or three years “are going to be rough” for local governments in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder told a group of city managers and county executives he’s sensitive to that.

The main cause of budget problems for local governments is a declining tax base. Home values are down and there are fewer businesses since the recession. Townships, cities, and counties get most of their money from property taxes. 

Governor Snyder says he knows the tough times are not over for municipalities.

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